In spring of 2020, no one was exempt from COVID-19 disruption. The United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) gathers every few years for a High Level Forum to discuss developments and future trends in the field. This year’s event was hosted by Ordnance Survey on behalf of the United Kingdom, and was a major opportunity for the United Nations and Member States to come together to discuss their developments and goals.

Originally scheduled as a three-day event taking place at Royal Holloway, the UN-GGIM Secretariat and Ordnance Survey required a rapid restructure to circumvent COVID-19 restrictions.

The solution? An assured pivot to a fully-virtual event, which would allow delegates to tune in from the comfort of their location of choice. 

 

Plotting the course for success.

As the first large virtual event UN-GGIM and Ordnance Survey had been involved in, the High Level Forum would be a testing ground. As virtual events experts, the Live Group team acted as guide and advisor in navigating through this new format.

To kick things off, our Content Manager met with the UN-GGIM and Ordnance Survey teams to discuss the structure of the virtual event.

The result of this meeting was a strategy to adapt the physical event into three, three-hour online sessions, scheduled weekly across the end of May and beginning of June. This was implemented as a method of increasing engagement with attendees and extending contact with the global geospatial community.

The agenda across the three sessions was positively stacked, packed to the brim with leading experts in the geospatial and statistical fields, including the Head of the United Nations Statistics Division, Stefan Schweinfest, and CEO of Ordnance Survey, Steve Blair.

These speakers would be bridging in from locations around the world. And with the pivot to a virtual solution, talent which would have otherwise been unable to attend got their chance, beaming in from across continents and time zones.

 

 

Taking hurdles in our stride.

This breadth of talent was a major plus for the event, but also presented its own challenges.

First, locations. Twenty-three presenters spread to the four winds, each with technical requirements and the desire to deliver their content in the best format possible. With speakers booked from all corners of the world, including Australia, Ethiopia, Guyana, Mexico, Mongolia and Tonga, the Live Group technical team were tasked with ensuring each speaker had a high-quality set-up to allow for seamless streaming.

Given the rapid turnaround and seniority of the talent lending their time to the event, it was not possible to arrange the rehearsal time typically ringfenced for an event of this nature.

But the show must go on, and the Live Group streaming and moderation teams deftly executed all three sessions without incident.

This high-pressure environment eliminated any room for complacency or error, and as a result the energy and attentiveness across the management of the event remained at a meticulous high, which showed in the flawless delivery.

 

Adapting on the fly.

The benefit of running an event across sessions spaced as they were for the High Level Forum, is the opportunity for learning and tweaking the engagement formula.

After an exceptional first session it was noted that the experts’ Q&A segments were providing real value. In response, the upcoming agendas were amended to maximise the effectiveness of these Q&As, giving delegates more access and insight.

Conclusion.

The pivot to a virtual solution facilitated a truly global gathering befitting a truly global subject. The UN-GGIM High Level Forum signalled our most widely-viewed virtual event yet, with over 1,800 delegates from 92 countries tuning in. And with the move towards a focus on Q&A, engagement from the event remained consistently high, providing a tangible benefit for the UN and the global geospatial community.

 

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